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It was one of the most powerful rebukes of Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention: The father of a Muslim-American soldier slain in the Iraq War pulled out a copy of the U.S. Constitution from his pocket and offered to lend it to the Republican nominee.
"Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?" Khizr Khan, 65, asked, his wife Ghazala beside him. "In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’ "
Khan’s son, Humayun, was a captain in the U.S. Army who sacrificed his life while saving his fellow soldiers in Iraq. One of 14 Muslim-Americans to die in the line of duty since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Humayun Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America," Khan said, referring to Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the United States. "Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one."
The Khan family moved from the United Arab Emirates to the United States in 1980, when Humayun was 2. The family settled down in Maryland, and Humayun went on to graduate from the University of Virginia in 2000, where he joined ROTC. Aspiring to be a military lawyer, he enlisted to pay for law school and to give back to the program he felt had "completed him as a person," according to his father.
Capt. Khan had already completed a four-year tour when the he was assigned to Iraq indefinitely in 2004. There, he hired Iraqi civilians to help patrol the streets of Baqubah and was a unofficial counselor for mentally troubled soldiers.
He called his mother on Mother’s Day, May 9, 2004, to assure her that he was safe, according to the Washington Post. A month later, he died in a suicide bombing at age 27. Khan ordered his soldiers to hit the dirt as a taxi carrying explosives drove into the gate of his compound. Khan took 10 steps toward the car before it detonated.
"His colleagues and superiors remembered him for his courage, honesty, sense of humor and grace while in the field, even under pressure. Capt. Khan's colleagues eulogized his exemplary services and praised him for the leadership he provided to his troops," according to his memorial page on Arlington Cemetery's website.
Eleven years later, and after Trump had proposed his Muslim ban, Hillary Clinton said in December that Khan represents "the best of America."
The deeply personal nature of Khizr Khan’s speech added weight to his rebuke, said Kathleen Kendall, a University of Maryland professor specializing in political rhetoric.
"Mr. Khan, this calm and serious man, mourning his son, suddenly seemed to take charge, and put Trump on the spot," she told PolitiFact. "The most powerful element of the speech was this Muslim immigrant speaker's direct challenge to Trump, questioning his knowledge of the U. S. Constitution, and offering his own copy."
Khizr Khan seems to agree.
"This is our country too," Khan told the San Francisco Chronicle before the speech.
Here’s the full transcript of Khizr Khan’s speech:
Our thoughts and prayers are with our veterans and those who serve today. Tonight we are honored to stand here as parents of Capt. Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.
Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy — that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.
We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams. Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son "the best of America." If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.
Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.
Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words "liberty" and "equal protection of law."
Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
We can't solve our problems by building walls and sowing division. We are Stronger Together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our next President.
YouTube, "FULL: Khizr Khan son was 1 of 14 American Muslims who died serving - Democratic National Convention," July 28, 2016
Arlington Cemetery, "Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan Captain, United States Army," June 17, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, "Dad of Muslim American war hero to address Democratic convention," July 27, 2016
Washington Post, "Khizr Khan’s loss: A grieving father of a soldier struggles to understand," March 22, 2005
Email interview with Kathleen Kendall, professor of communications at the University of Maryland, July 29, 2016